Go Local, Get Global.

We tend to be a bit local, here in Sheffield. The city doesn't feel like one of those world-level metropolises. In fact it's often called a collection of little villages. It's also noted that many people come here to study and decide to settle down in our green and pleasant town. Does this mean that we're keeping our heads below the parapet, for fear of the big wide world outside? Worse still, are we xenophobic Little Englanders with no interest in other people and their problems?

I think not. Groups like the EDL are, thankfully, tiny minorities. On the contrary, many good people in Sheffield have deep concerns for global issues. We can't solve the world's problems from here, but activists are aware of this, and usually balance a wider vision with realistic ideas of what we can do.

Take a look at what's happening right now. The great news of the moment is the award of a contract for a Sheffield television channel to Sheffield Local Television (SLTV). This will air on Freeview and over the internet. You might think it'll be just another hyper-local medium for advertising and folks grumbling about how holes in the road aren't what they used to be, but I don't think so. The team that formed SLTV is also behind Sheffield Live! radio station. If you've ever tuned in, you'll know that this is not just any radio station. It's a real multicultural mix from all areas and walks of life. A breath of fresh air in the stale world of slick and glossy media. It gives a voice to real Sheffield people and to the city's many community groups. SLTV's Paul Gregory says the new channel will take the same lively approach, as a local initiative with a global outlook.

Elsewhere in international news, over 500 students from all over the UK descend on Sheffield this month for the annual convention of People & Planet, which is a student organisation focussing on the big environmental, human rights and economic issues. It will have an excellent range of speakers, coming from as far away as South Africa, so it's hardly a parochial event. This follows on the heels of Sheffield hosting the gathering of the Young Greens, the under-30s wing of the Green Party, including a visit by its new leader, Natalie Bennett.

The Black Fish group will also visit to describe their activist approach to the scandal of industrial overfishing. Dutchman Wietse Van Der Werf will explain the successes and trials in their mission to change attitudes towards our oceans. And there's a discussion of the issue of UN peacekeepers involved in rape, torture and exploitation of women in the sex trade during the Bosnian War.

These events, with Sheffield people acting in solidarity with others around the world, are just a few picked out from the events section of the Alt-Sheff website. There are many organisations in the city with an international focus.

One long-established group campaigning at global level is the World Development Movement (WDM), which raises awareness and fights for justice for the poor. Sheffield's group is very active and is currently focussing on food. There are problems ranging from unsustainable, capital-intensive farming, to land grabs, to toxins threatening food supplies. These are serious global issues, but they're not simply "abroad". Britain's dodgy debt deals with developing countries are linked, as the so-called Tax Justice Bus reminded Sheffield people during its recent UK tour. British corporations are profiting from poverty and hiding the profits in tax havens. We're not isolated from reality; we're intricately linked.


Creative Self-Employment.

Have you ever wondered what real people really do all day? The stuff that careers advisers don't tell you? Trevor Tomlin says he had a 'proper' job once, but he grew out of it. He had a good salary but felt totally undervalued. Now that's reversed. He's transformed what he loves doing into self-employment; festival and events management, community art, photography. Things he already did as a volunteer in community activism like Peace in the Park. Money's not everything, he says, you just need social skills, computer ability and creativity.

After mornings with the radio on, making art, Trevor goes into town to use the internet at the library or Access Space. 80% of his organising is online. Why no internet at home? Money's tight, but also bumping into people is really important. There's a whole community out there and it takes time to build connections.

This lifestyle isn't glamorous. It means trying hard to sell services and bid for contracts, in Trevor's case for work like art classes, photography and kids' play sessions. When no-one wants to pay, Trevor accepts the necessity to work for free sometimes.

He empowers others with confidence. Many creative people think they need stuff to do stuff, he says, but who really needs to run a car, or have a studio? These things soak up money, so people get part-time jobs and sadly never make it to the life they really wanted. In fact Trevor lives happily on the breadline but, as he observes, people waste too much in this culture.

He's down-to-earth about exhibiting art. His advice to others who want to follow his path is to give your audience an incentive to attend your events. No-one's going to pay for you and your friends to have a party, and why should people come to see your work anyway? Offer them more - free music or food, perhaps. If you don't have any experience, give it a go anyway and you will learn new things every time. Do it yourself. Make it up as you go along, learn from your mistakes and you'll find a lot of great people to work with along the way. For a peek at Trevor's work, see trevortomlincommunityart.tumblr.com